This post is primarily in response to the Economist's Women's Economic Opportunity Report 2010 and the video of Kavita Ramdas. While watching Ramdas' speech, her use of the word "empowerment" in a somewhat sarcastic tone while speaking of ways that people are trying to invest in women reminded me of Harcourt's "Development as if Gender Matters." In that article, Harcourt, as we mentioned in class, discusses how "female empowerment" has been captured by market forces, which have a way of removing the meaning of such a term; however, I think there are sometimes advantages to such larger forces or institutions. Big names and big brands, even if they use female empowerment to lure you into buying a bag because it was made by women in Sudan, it creates chains of financial independence that would not occur otherwise. Institutions and markets influence people into paying attention to such issues, and by drawing greater attention to them, they can affect people's lives. I think that the fashion industry's adoption of women's rights, illustrated by the multiple ads in SELF magazine this month advertising that company's support for breast cancer research, is one example of how women have worked to affect change within an institution.
The idea of affecting change from inside, which we also discussed in class last week while talking about the UN and its new UN Women, stood out to me in Kavita Ramdas' example of the devout Muslim woman in Afghanistan that she discussed in detail. Looking at the Muslim woman's photo on the screen, she did not look different from many Muslim women and also sported the headscarf. What struck me was how that woman started the school she had told Kavita about. She had spoken to the Imam, and by appealing to his interests was able to gain support for what he may have considered something that benefited him and their religion, but really was something that grew into a school for women, and whatever they decided to learn about. When I heard that, I was interested to see the Economist's Reports analysis of women in Afghanistan, but was disappointed to not find it in the listed countries. I'm also curious as to how much this study may have cost, especially when the UN Women's budget is $500,000. I was wondering what others think may be why Afghanistan is not listed, budget constraints, and working within or outside of institutions.